Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Tribute

Foreword:

This coming Saturday is September 11th.

An "anniversary.”

Hmm... I take issue with that word: I think it is too often associated with something quite positive. When it marks the loss of one life? ...Okay, I suppose -- the day can be a celebration of that life. But when thousands have been killed? I'm just not sure that "anniversary" is the right word.

Regardless, it occurred to me – probably around ’07 or so – that I had spent several years going through the various stages of grief. It didn’t debilitate me. It didn’t prevent me from enjoying life and love. It just was.


Five days after that morning of standing before the television, in disbelief, I was able to get some thoughts down on paper. I’d like to share them with you today. Here's what I wrote, back in mid-September, 2001…

Since Tuesday

I'm starting to get used to the routine. I'm learning to expect that every day, something will make me cry. An image on the television, a paragraph in some newspaper story, a radio interview – there will be that instant when I am brought back fully into what happened, and my sense of sorrow and powerlessness will give way to sobs.

For some reason, though, the sobs go as quickly as they come. And when they have passed, I pick up where I had left off. I return to the newspaper or my coffee or the website work. I think again about that damn boutique owner whose check I can't deposit for fear that it might bounce. I think about those family issues that I thought, two months ago, I was done thinking about. I feed the cats; I avoid cleaning; I calculate the days until I really, truly have to do my laundry. I realize my fridge needs to be defrosted again. I plan to walk; I plan to read; I change the litterbox; I feed the cats (again).

And then it's time to cry. Again.

I've lived in Los Angeles for eleven years, but I lived in New York for fifteen. There is still the New Yorker in me. I guess she'll never go away. And even though I wasn't there this week (and I am selfishly relieved that I wasn't), I still feel such a strong connection that it's difficult to distance myself from the surreal pain and anguish that must be floating through that incredible city right now.

At Albertson's tonight, I picked up the People magazine that covered this week's tragedy. Generally, my picking up People at the grocery store has everything to do with how long the checkout line is and how slowly it is moving. Which is to say, I don't buy the magazine; I just borrow it. This issue was different. It was a sad souvenir, and I bought it. And when I got home, I tossed it on the kitchen table with no intention of reading it. I didn't want to. I had seen and heard enough. Besides, I had the website to work on. Besides...

Hours later, I opened the magazine, and I began to read stories that reiterated the news I had been watching and hearing about since Tuesday. I read every word about what happened in New York. I didn't read every word about the Pentagon tragedy. For some reason, it wasn't as newsworthy to me.

Growing up in Virginia, I was more exposed to D.C. than I was to New York, but D.C. never drew me in. I always felt it was too manipulated by its builders. It didn't really have an energy of its own -- only a purpose: to perform its duties as the nation's capital. A city with a job. How dull is that?

Then there was New York. Beckoning me with its diversity and spirit, and with its blessing that I might grow at my own pace, befriending – or not – anyone who stepped in my path. And I could live any way I wanted there – shyly or raucously (and I did both). The city would give me something beyond the space I needed; it would give me resilient perimeters.

I was able to grow and mature in New York because I always felt that, no matter what else was going on, the City was watching over me and would make sure I got home safely. It had power that way. And I can't help but believe that other New Yorkers felt the same. When such a formidable place is also so beautiful and so alive, you can't help but feel that it has the upper hand – that it has a connection to something bigger than yourself; that the City will make sure you get home okay...

And now there are rescue teams working around the clock, standing on several stories of rubble. Trying to believe, against all hope, that there's someone there. Someone still breathing, someone still believing that as long as New York is there, they'll get home okay.

But there's a part of New York that isn't there anymore. And that's what makes me cry.

Katie Gates
9/16/01

13 comments:

Sam Liu said...

Such a tragedy. This really moved me, Katie, reading your real thoughts and feelings at the time. It was a fascinating insight and an endearingly saddening and solemnly profound account.

Cheryl said...

Having lived and worked in and around NYC for 6 years, I couldn't agree more with each word, each sentiment, and each emotion.

I don't know if I'll ever go back. Some day I hope to be strong enough to face the city I so love.

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

very moving Katie, a big tragedy of a great nation... I never lived in NY but have had the opportunity to visit and work there in several occasions, and it captivates me. I wrote two posts during one of my trips to NY, and you just gave me the idea to re-post them on 09/11 as a tribute to the city. Thanks a lot!

Heather Johnson said...

Thank you for this. I found myself while living in D.C. and New York. But, no matter. The place I loved is different. And I feel different about it.

deborahjbarker said...

I remember watching the smoke billow from the first tower and then watching in absolute disbelief as that second plane sliced through the other. All this on a small screen in the office with the phones ringing incessantly all around as people tried to tell us of the news we'd already seen.

We all knew nothing could ever be quite the same again and yet, you are right, life goes on. It just helps to stop and remember from time to time. Lovely post Katie.

C Ann Golden said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. I grew up in New York state (upstate) and had a chance to visit that great city a few times. It was such a sad, sad day for us all. I will never forget it.

Carrie

WhisperingWriter said...

How sad. I can't even imagine, I've never been to New York before.

Kimberly said...

well said ... as a New Yorker this tragedy hit your heart ... this week is a week that all of us are sharing tears.
Found you through Silver and Grace!

BECKY said...

Katie, I've never been to New York, but have always loved the thought of visiting someday.
I know we'll all remember where we were and what we were doing on that horrible day.

Martha Gates-Mawson said...

I remember reading this right after you wrote it. Mom sent it to me and I could feel your pain - I knew how much NYC meant to you and the history our whole family has there. To this day, it is hard to think of it. But what I remember is that in the days that followed, little American flags started showing up in the windows of the houses in the small English town where I was living. I was getting hugs from strangers in pubs when they discovered I was American and I found that so comforting and made me feel as if I were part of a much bigger "family"...

Jayne Martin said...

Beautifully expressed, my friend.

Deb Shucka said...

This is a beautifully told story of a tragedy that still has the power to bring tears. Thank you for sharing it.

Mansi said...

I've been to New York only once...in 2007...and got chills visiting the WTC site. There it was in all its emptiness silently screaming stories of lives lost, courage witnessed, rescues accomplished. It was a poignant yet hopeful experience at the same time. You're right that the city has a reassuring strength about it. Thanks, Katie, for sharing this beautifully written, honest reflection.